The world desperately needs the return of Christ. But the Bible warns there will be conflicting messages about when and where He will return. What’s the truth?
Jesus’ disciples were keenly interested in the future—as many continue to be today. Near the end of Jesus’ life, His disciples approached Him privately on the Mount of Olives, overlooking the magnificent temple in Jerusalem, and asked Him about what was to come.
Earlier that day while they had looked with awe at the huge stones and beautiful workmanship of the temple, Jesus had shocked them with this prophecy: “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (Matthew 24:2).
So when they got Him alone, they followed up on this. They asked, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (verse 3).
The Olivet Prophecy
There on the Mount of Olives Jesus Christ answered their questions with one of the pivotal prophecies of the Bible. Because of the location, this message recorded in Matthew 24-25, Mark 13 and Luke 21 has come to be known as the Olivet Prophecy.
Jesus laid out a series of events that would occur before His return:
- Religious deception (Matthew 24:4-5).
- Wars and rumors of war (verses 6-7).
- Famines (verse 7).
- Pestilences (verse 7).
- Earthquakes (verse 7).
- Persecution of Christ’s followers (verses 9-10).
- Lawlessness (verse 12).
- The good news of the Kingdom of God will be preached (verse 14).
- Jerusalem will be surrounded with armies and the “abomination of desolation” will be set up (verse 15; Luke 21:20).
- Great Tribulation will threaten the existence of humanity (Matthew 24:21-22).
- Signs in the heavens (verse 29).
You can find more details about these events and their timing in these articles: “Discerning the Signs of the Times,” “When Will Jesus Return?” “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” “Abomination of Desolation” and “Great Tribulation.”
Jesus said that “after the tribulation” would come signs in the heavens and then He would return to the earth with the great sound of a trumpet (Matthew 24:29-31; 1 Corinthians 15:52; Revelation 11:15). In the same way He left the earth in the clouds, He will return to the earth through the clouds (Matthew 24:30; Acts 1:9-11).
Though many 21st-century Christians have been taught that Jesus Christ will come secretly before the time of tribulation to take the saints to heaven, this theory is not supported by the Scriptures. (See the article “Will There Be a Secret Rapture?”)
As we will see, the Bible shows that Jesus will not have a secret near-return, but will very visibly return to the surface of the earth.
False reports of Jesus’ location
Jesus explained that before His return there would be false reports that He had already returned and was in some secret location.
He warned, “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. … Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it” (Matthew 24:23-26).
When Jesus does come, He will come “with power and great glory” (verse 30) and “every eye will see Him” (Revelation 1:7). Far from secret, His return will be noted by “all the tribes of the earth.” But surprisingly, they will not cheer their returning Savior, but will mourn.
When Jesus does come, He will come “with power and great glory” and “every eye will see Him.” Far from secret, His return will be noted by “all the tribes of the earth.”The deceived nations of the earth will actually gather to fight against the Son of God!
Where will the nations be gathered?
The book of Revelation describes how the nations will be deceived into gathering at Armageddon to prepare for “the battle of that great day of God Almighty” (Revelation 16:14-16). From this site northwest of Jerusalem, they will travel to the Valley of Jehoshaphat in the vicinity of Jerusalem itself (Joel 3:2; Zechariah 14:2).
That is where the returning Jesus Christ will swiftly and decisively defeat the combined armies of the earth (Revelation 19:11-21).
Where does the Bible say Jesus will return?
The prophet Zechariah picks up the story:
“Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east” (Zechariah 14:3-4, emphasis added).
The Mount of Olives was the location from which Jesus ascended to heaven after being resurrected from the grave and appearing to His disciples (Acts 1:9-12). Jesus will return to the same location from which He previously left the earth.
Where does Jesus go from there?
From that point, Jesus’ righteous rule will spread around the world, bringing peace and plenty to all nations. He will make Jerusalem His capital.
As Micah records: “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it. Many nations shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion the law shall go forth, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem” (Micah 4:1-2).
What a wonderful time that will be! Pray for that day to come soon!
To learn more about God’s Kingdom, be sure to read the articles in this section on the “Kingdom of God.”